Kelly Nguyen

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Executive Search Associate, McDermott & Bull Executive Search

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Kelly Nguyen serves as an Executive Search Associate for The fit Practice at McDermott & Bull Executive Search based in Irvine, California. She works closely with Jeff Black, Partner, assisting in growing The fit Practice and driving its philanthropic efforts through her service on the DifferenceMakersOC Committee. Her passion for serving others and doing meaningful work has led her to join McDermott & Bull. Previously, Kelly was the Lead Peer Educator for the Center for Student Involvement at UCSD focusing on communication and leadership development. She is also a Gates Millennium Scholar, world traveler, foodie, and writer. Kelly graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

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My parents fled Vietnam in the late 1980s by boat in search of freedom and landed in Malaysia, where they met and where I was born in a refugee camp. When I turned two years old, my family came to the United States and settled in Southern California, where my younger brother and I were raised. Growing up, my parents have always instilled the importance of education as the key to unlocking a better future. They also constantly remind their children that no matter what our circumstances may be, we are still much more fortunate than billions of people in this world. Hence, I am deeply grateful for the many blessings in my life and I try my best to not take anything for granted.

One of my life mottos is “Nothing worth having comes easy.” This is why, from a young age, I have never been afraid of putting in the effort and work necessary to achieve my goals. For example, I knew that in order to create the opportunity to advance myself, my family, and my community, I needed to get a college education as the first big step. Thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholarship (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), I was able to afford college tuition and graduated with a degree in Communication from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). As a first-generation college student, I was able to set an example for my brother and younger cousins.

During my last semester of college, I had the privilege of participating in Semester at Sea, where I was able to study and travel to 13 different countries around the world over the course of four months. After the semester ended, I decided to backpack around Europe and visit another 10 countries on my own for another two months. I experienced the adventure of a lifetime during those six months abroad, and I can honestly say that it was truly life-changing. I learned so much about myself and the world around me, and I returned home with a renewed sense of gratitude and a newfound sense of overall “badassness.” The global perspective that I have gained is priceless and have shaped me into the person I am today. One of my life goals is to never let my age surpass the number of countries I’ve visited. At 28 countries so far, I am ahead of the game!

Aside from traveling, my other passion is any and all kinds of food! I love to eat, and I love taking photos of my food. I think that food is one of those simple pleasures in life that should be savored as much and as often as possible. 7 out of 10 times someone walks by my desk, I will be either sipping or munching on something. One of my favorite things to do is seeking out the hole-in-the-wall hidden gems. I can easily and equally enjoy food from Michelin starred restaurants or questionable street food from all over the world. Can you tell that I love food?

Some of my other hobbies include writing, reading, dancing, wine/beer tasting, discovering new music, finding different ways to exercise, and organizing things.

A mantra that I live by is “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”